Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby pushed through one of the lowest council tax increases in the country last night, denouncing his critics as "self-appointed Jeremiahs and empty vessels".
Household bills will rise by 1.9 per cent in April - just 38p a week for the average Band D property. The decision means that Birmingham will have the lowest council tax rise of any major English city including Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Bristol and Newcastle.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition running the city council has now delivered a 1.9 per cent council tax rise each year since ousting Labour in 2004. The aim, according to Coun Whitby, was to keep future increases at the same level for the next 10 years.
He told yesterday's council budget meeting the "feel-good factor" had returned to Birmingham.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) added: 'We have thrown off the shackles of under-performance and irrevocably proved we can be trusted to manage our city's finances.
"We have proved beyond doubt that it is not the case that low council tax bills have been achieved at the expense of service delivery and improvements."
He said the low increase had been made possible by efficiency savings and weeding out unnecessary expenditure. A business transformation programme will enable the council to create annual surpluses of £122 million by 2018.
The 2008-09 council budget will see an additional £32 million over and above inflation ploughed into services.
Planned improvements include: * £5 million for children in care
* £7 million for waste recycling and highway maintenance
* £5 million to support events in the city, including the Digital Birmingham project
* £ 19 million to tackle long - term unemployment.
He told the council an additional £164 million had been invested in frontline services since 2004.
Coun Whitby added: "Rooting out waste while improving the most important public services may not be rocket science, but it requires determined and caring leadership capable of dealing with the largest local authority budget in the country.
"We are starting to reap the benefit of having a clear vision, ambition, long-term goals, priorities and actions translated into real investment, targeted intervention and tangible results."
The Council Plan, for the next five years, would concentrate on creating a prosperous, culturally diverse, vibrant Birmingham with a worldwide reputation for excellence, he said.
New Birmingham council tax rates:
Band A, £808
Band B, £943
Band C, £1,078
Band D, £1,212
Band E, £1,482
Band F, £1,752
Band G, £2,021
Band H, £2,425